What is Early Intervention (EI)?
Early Intervention is a federally mandated program of coordinated services, through IDEA Part C, that provides support and education to children with developmental delays and their families. Children ages 0-3 exhibiting delays in physical, cognitive, communication, and social/emotional development are eligible for services. The goal of Early Intervention is to help children with developmental delays as soon as possible so they can reach their fullest potential.
Eligibility for EI is determined after a child had been evaluated by a health professional. Some children are diagnosed at birth with a condition that makes them eligible for EI, while other children may not be evaluated until they have exhibited a delay in reaching milestones.
EI services are often provided to children diagnosed with:
- chromosomal abnormalities
- genetic or congenital disorders
- sensory impairments
- disorders of the nervous system
- any other condition with a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay
Parents can get a referral for Early Intervention service through their healthcare provider or they can contact their local EI program directly and ask for an evaluation.
What is IDEA Part C?
The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) Part C is a federal grant program that mandates statewide Early Intervention services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays. Currently all US states and territories are eligible to participate in the Part C program. Each state has a lead agency that coordinates services and a different definition of what constitutes a developmental delay.
Who is Eligible for Services?
Children birth to 3 years who have a diagnosed mental or physical condition that has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay or any child that meets their state’s definition of a developmental delay qualifies for EI services. You can find your state’s eligibility requirements here.
What Services Are Offered Through EI?
Through Early Intervention, service providers and families work together to develop customized plans to help build the child’s skills. Services provided by Early Intervention include:
- Speech Therapy
- Occupational Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Social Services
- Educational Services
- Nursing Care
- Behavior Modification
- Nutritional Counseling
- Family Counseling
- Assistive Technology
Services can be offered through public or private organizations and are provided in a child’s “natural environment” such as a child’s home, early care and education program, and other community settings. However, if the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) team determines that the child’s needs and desired outcomes cannot be achieved in a natural environment then children can be seen in other locations, such as a therapy clinic.
Enrolling in EI
If you have concerns about your child’s development talk with your health provider and discuss a referral for an evaluation. You can also contact your local Early Intervention office.
Every state has unique eligibility standards that decide if a child qualifies for services. To see a list of the state’s EI offices click here.
Early Intervention services are often in high demand and have a long wait lists. Once you have your EI referral, remember to follow up until you have an appointment booked.
In some areas where wait lists to receive services are extremely long, children can be authorized to receive services in clinical or hospital settings until trained professionals can deliver services in a child’s home or school.
What Happens After Your Child Qualifies for EI?
Once your child has had an evaluation and it’s been determined that they qualify for your state’s EI services, you and your team of trained professionals will develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan will outline the services your child and family will receive.
Your child’s IFSP will include information on:
- Your child’s levels and needs in the areas of physical, cognitive, communication, social/emotional and adaptive development
- Parental and family member’s concerns, priorities, and resources
- Outcomes expected to be achieved
- Where and how often services will be provided
- The number of days sessions will be received
- How long sessions will be
- Payment for services
- Name of service coordinator
- Transitional planning out of EI and into another program
How Much does it Cost?
Early Intervention services are typically offered at little or no cost to a family. However specific policies vary from state to state.
Services always provided to families at no cost:
- Evaluations & assessments
- Development of IFSP
- Service coordination
In some states sliding-scale fees are charged for services. Private insurance, Medicaid, or Indian Health Services may also sometimes cover early intervention services.
Detecting delays early and getting the early therapy services needed ensures that every child reaches their fullest potential.